The Hollywood Star System

Idols of the screen, models of style and politics, brand identities, and icons of popular culture, Hollywood stars continue to fascinate us as moviegoers. Identification in cinema is not the exclusive domain of the camera, but involves a relationship we share with characters, actors, and star personae. To that end, acting is not the function of scripted plot, nor is charisma a “natural” state of being; each requires critical analysis to understand how the labor of artistic subjects and the machinery of the press determine careers in the entertainment industry. This course will introduce you to the craft of film acting and an actor’s context in the mise-en-scène of cinema. Moreover, you will learn how an actor becomes a star through promotion, publicity, criticism, and media commentaries. We will look specifically at famous cases from the Classical Hollywood era (between the late 1920s and the early 1960s), the period in which actors worked under long-term contracts at studios that manufactured their images to be admired by the public and even desired by communities of fans. The phenomenon of Hollywood stardom remains alive and well, and the story of contemporary celebrity culture begins here.